Seldom do you find a recipe with so few ingredients and such awesome results as the humble johnnycake. What’s a johnnycake, you ask?
Think of it as a pancake made with cornmeal instead of wheat flour. That’s the simplest way of putting it, but like any old recipe, the johnnycake has as many interpretations as it does spellings. (You might also see it as “Johnny cake,” “jonnycakes” or even “journey cake,” an apparent variation for when these were eaten by travelers long before their cross-country trips were in vehicles running on gasoline.)
In their purest form, johnnycakes are made with just four things: cornmeal, salt, sugar and water. That’s it.
Unlike muffins or even the good ol’ pancake, johnnycakes require no leavening agent — that’s a fancy way of saying stuff like baking powder or yeast, which makes baked goods puff and rise.
No, johnnycakes come alive with just a few ingredients mixed together and then cooked in a skillet — you don’t even need an oven, for crying out loud! What you’ll end up with is a delicious, hearty oval similar to cornbread that’s crunchy on the outside and moist within.
Now that I’ve hopefully sold you on the merits of johnnycakes, you might be wondering when to eat them. I think the more appropriate question is, When can’t you eat them? Johnnycakes have the unique characteristic of being great eaten as either a savory food or as a sweet one.